George Perle (May 6, 1915 – January 23, 2009) was a composer and music theorist. He was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. A student of Ernst Krenek, Perle composed with a technique of his own devising called "twelve-tone tonality," which is different from, but related to, twelve-tone technique of the Second Viennese School of which he was an, "early admirer," and whose techniques he used aspects of but never fully adopted. Perle's former student Paul Lansky described 12-tone tonality thus: "Basically this creates a hierarchy among the notes of the chromatic scale so that they are all referentially related to one or two pitches which then function as a tonic note or chord in tonality. The system similarly creates a hierarchy among intervals and finally, among larger collections of notes, 'chords.' The main debt of this system to the 12-tone system lies in its use of an ordered linear succession in the same way that a 12-tone set does".
In 1968 Perle cofounded the Alban Berg Society with Igor Stravinsky and Hans F. Redlich, who had the idea (according to Perle in his letter to Glen Flax of 4/1/89). Perle's important work on Berg includes documenting that the third act of Lulu, rather than being an unfinished sketch as long thought, was actually three-fifths complete and that the Lyric Suite contains a secret program dedicated to Berg's love-affair. After retiring from Queens College in 1985 he became a professor emeritus at the Aaron Copland School of Music. In 1986 Perle was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his Fourth Wind Quintet and also a MacArthur Fellowship. "Widely considered the poetic voice of atonal composition," he died aged 93 in his home in New York City in January 2009.
- Perle, George (1992). "Symmetry, the Twelve-Tone Scale, and Tonality", Contemporary Music Review 6 (2), pp. 81–96.
- Perle, George (1962, reprint 1991). Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. University of California Press.
- Perle, George (1978, reprint 1992). Twelve-Tone Tonality. University of California Press.
- Perle, George (1990). The Listening Composer. California: University of California Press. .
- Perle, George (1984). "Scriabin's Self-Analysis", Musical Analysis III/2 (July).
- Perle, George (1980). The Operas of Alban Berg. Vol. 1: Wozzeck. California: University of California Press.
- Perle, George (1985). The Operas of Alban Berg. Vol. 2: Lulu. California: University of California Press.